Keep your hands off our Ambos!
They are the 'front line' of health care and exist primarily to respond to acute emergency situations. Every call they attend places paramedics and ambulance officers in unknown and potentially dangerous situations.
While other health professionals operate in fixed and familiar environments where they have a complete understanding of their physical surrounds, paramedics and ambulance officers work in completely unfamiliar and often highly volatile environments.
Do people really act aggressively or violently towards our Ambos?
Yes, sometimes on the job Ambos face:
- being spat on
- aggressive behaviour sometimes with a weapon
- threats of violence
- physical assault including kicks, bites and punches.
Why would someone threaten or interfere with an Ambo when they are there to help someone?
Ambos have to contend not only with the needs of their patients, but also with members of the public who through anxiety, deliberate belligerence or intoxication, can exhibit the most aggressive and violent forms of challenging behaviour.
A significant amount of challenging behaviour is encountered in metropolitan and regional licensed venues as the result of drug or alcohol intoxication. Challenging behaviour for our Ambos also occurs commonly in the home as a result of pre-loading alcohol intoxication.
What is the impact on our Ambos?
The impact of 'less serious' challenging behaviour, such as verbal abuse, can be accumulative. The innuendo, derogatory or offensive remarks, insults, overt displays of aggression, and at times inappropriate touching and threat to gender safety particularly for female staff that make up 45% of the paid and volunteer workforce, are all often mediated by compassion for the patient's circumstances. The acts frequently go unreported, or are simply tolerated as 'part of the job'. Despite this tolerance, these behaviours are not an acceptable part of the job and over time contribute to staff attitude, low morale and diminished self-worth.
Are there possible consequences for a person if they are charged related to this type of incident?
- Offences include assault, sexual assault, property damage, disorderly or offensive behaviour.
- You may have to spend time in jail. The maximum sentence for serious assaults on public officers is 25 years. Or you might have to do community service.
- Many industries won't employ someone with a criminal history. You may lose your current employment because of the blot on your record or because you need to take time off work for court appearances or because you can't fulfill your work duties.
- You may experience limited travel opportunities due to a conviction in countries like the US.
- What people think about us affects how we feel about ourselves. A shameful incident that goes against social norms such as assaulting a health care worker can result in ridicule, social ostracism and other forms of bullying. It can affect personal relationships, you may lose friends because of what you did and respect from your family.
What can I do to support our Ambos?
Respect our Ambos because they're here to help. Make it socially unacceptable amongst your mates to be disrespectful, threaten or harm an Ambo.
Talk with younger members of your family to educate them about the important role Ambos play and how we should always treat Ambos with respect in case we need their help.
Further information on challenging behaviour can be found using the following links:
- Challenging behaviour, including how SA Health is tackling it
- Fact sheet (PDF 115KB) on how challenging behaviour commonly presents and the causes of this behaviour
- Taking Care of Challenging Behaviour infographic (PDF 504KB) which includes the high risk settings, the challenging behaviour spectrum and incidents reported
Keep your hands off our Ambos!
I can't fight for your mate's life if I'm fighting for mine.
If you ever threaten or interfere with an Ambo, you're stopping them from doing their job. And that could cost someone their life.